Redneck Riviera
June 26, 2003

The highlight, for me, of our family vacation to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama was a morning hike along the Pine Beach Trail in the Bon Secour Wildlife Management Refuge. Here's some information I copied off the Internet:
"Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1979 to protect a unique parcel of land along the Alabama Gulf Coast. The Refuge is divided into five separate units along the Fort Morgan Peninsula and Little Dauphin Island. Habitats include beach, scrub dunes, fresh and saltwater marshes, Maritime forest and open freshwater. These habitats serve as important stop over and staging areas for many species of neotropical migrants. Additionally the endangered Alabama beach mouse makes its home on two refuge units. Other Threatened and Endangered species that may be found here include; Bald eagle, loggerhead and green sea turtles, piping plover and peregrine falcons. Resident species that occur include raccoon, opossum, red fox, bobcat and many amphibians and reptiles."
I found out about this trail at the geocaching web site, but I was here for the education and the sights. It looked like I might be in for a treat as soon as I pulled in to the parking area and saw huge oaks with wide crowns covered in Spanish moss. Along the first section of trail, miniature oaks like nothing we have in the Ozarks formed a tunnel. There were also palmettos and sweetbay. In some areas were signs forbidding human entry into the habitat beyond the trail - the signs didn't say why, but I suppose it was nesting areas for some of the endangered species.
I came to a wooden footbridge where a stream was emptying into a freshwater pond named Gator Lake. There was a large water bird in the stream - it looked like a heron to me but I'm no expert. Where the trail came close to the banks of the lake I looked around for gators, but didn't see any. I read a week later that some geocachers found two alligators staring at them from the water here. The smaller gator got bored with them and climbed out of the muck and walked across the road. They said the thing was eight feet long, and that was the baby!
Next I came to a saltwater lagoon surrounded by dunes. Other people have seen octopi and stingrays here, but I just saw a bunch of  hermit crabs in the water.
The trail then went through more dunes on the way to the ocean. I snapped the picture of the sand crab there. The trail ended at the beach, which I had all to myself. I was hoping to bring the family back to enjoy the sunset one evening - and maybe again have the beach all to ourselves, but there were so many activities planned that I never brought it up. If we ever go back to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach you can count on me returning to Bon Secour.